"I've read all of the other reviews of the Spirit and NCL--and its like we were on completely different ships/staff." -matthewthompson87; http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=80262
This quote from the NCL Spirit reviews sums up my opinion of the Spirit. As a matter of fact, the cruiser in the link above was on the Spirit when it docked in New Orleans for my spring break cruise. My family has been planning this for a while, and we were looking forward to a good time.
The Norwegian Spirit in general, as explained in the detailed review, has recently received a makeover. The ship is nice, small enough to get familiarized with the layout in a few hours.
We arrived at New Orleans the night before the cruise, and stayed in the Holiday Inn on Royal Street. It was an average hotel, but we liked the deal we got to keep our car in the lot for a week along with the room for the night. We walked down Bourbon Street, went to the Cafe du Monde, and generally acted like tourists.
Disaster struck on boarding day, 3/13/2011. We arrived there at 4PM, which we thought was early enough to get on fast. It turns out that there was already many people there who didn't get the phone call that the ship would be delayed because of a medical emergency (See the link above for the review by mattewthompson87; he explains it in more detail). When we finally got into the terminal at around 6PM, we waited for another three or four hours before they finally allowed boarding procedure to begin. Naturally, people were upset, especially those who didn't get the phone call that said that the ship would be further delayed and had been at the station since 10-11AM. Some of the crew was lined up at the front of the ship greeting the weary travelers, giving people drinks and beads for Mardi Gras. This, although a nice gesture, was in my opinion no way to make up for the hours of waiting we suffered through.
On embarkation night, I was hungry enough to go eat at Raffles, the buffet. The food was good for a buffet, and the servers cleared your food fast as well as keeping the tables clean and the utensils pile stocked.
What we also did on the first night was signing up at the teens' "Celebrity Disco", which was the teen center. We were one of the first ones to do so on that night, and they held a "Meet and Greet" that only had about twenty participants. Supposedly there were over 150 teenagers on board; I will say that there were no more than forty in the lounge at once and there were only twenty or so regulars there. The activities in the teen lounge were fun; Rexx and Jester (The Counselors) were both great and entertaining.
What really made my cruise enjoyable was the people that I met on board. The majority of the people in the teen lounge were from either Texas, New Orleans, Mississippi, or Tennessee, as far as I'd found. Either way, everyone had stories to tell and it was a great crowd.
On the people's subject, Cruise Critic had a meeting at Henry's Pub on the first day of the cruise at 10:30. Unfortunately, the crew picked that time to have the emergency evacuation drill, and I missed that meeting. Surfing the forums later on, I believe that people had fun at the meeting, but I had no way of knowing that it was rescheduled because Internet access was too expensive for me to check.
That day, the teen center was mostly holding icebreakers and a couple games. I met a few people that I would be with for the majority of the cruise, who became my best friends on deck.
One thing that I must bring up now is an allergy. Being deathly allergic to nuts, my family takes the time to explain to our waiters wherever we go that I have a bad allergy. The one time in my entire life so far I've had to use an EpiPen was on this cruise, when my egg rolls had peanuts sprinkled on top of them. I was out that entire night, recuperating after the incident. After that, I stopped going to the Garden and went to Windows, which had the same menu. I had a waitress that was very nice and made sure that all the plates I ate didn't have any nuts whatsoever in them after that, so the service on the NCL Spirit definitely isn't lacking.
I didn't actually go on any of the shore excursions, but the rates were a bit pricey to me. A fellow cruiser recommended that you purchase your cruise excursion tickets beforehand, online, or on shore since they give discounts there. The actual ports were decent; I toured each port by taxi or foot. Cozumel was definitely the best of them all with the day spent at Paradiso Beach.
Overall, it was the people that I met that saved this cruise from being an utter disaster. Sorry, NCL, but we probably won't be cruising with the Spirit again.
*Note - Port reviews aren't as detailed as they could be. My apologies for that.